Samuel Morse and the Telephone Pole


During the 1830s and 1840s, Samuel Morse had a workshop in Relay, a community near the Patapsco River, where he developed the single-wire telegraph system.

Samuel F. B. Morse

Unable to obtain funding in the private sector to support his research, Morse appealed to Congress for money to develop the telegraph. In 1843, Congress appropriated $30,000 to create a 38-mile experimental telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington.

Morse initially planned to dig a trench and bury the telegraph line. (In the 1880s, when Thomas Edison developed his electric distribution system in New York, he also initially chose burying wires in tar-filled trenches).

The rocky geography in the area through Patapsco State Park to Ellicott City made trench-digging prohibitively difficult. Morse’s Plan B was to elevate the telegraph line off the ground by stringing it to a series of poles stuck in the ground.

This area had the first telegraph–later telephone–poles.